André Castaigne signature There are four Castaigne
color pictures in issue #3 of

and two pages in issue #5 of
Black and White ImageS

André Castaigne - The Carpet from BagdadIs the life of an illustrator his natural life? "Born such and such, died then and when."

Is it his professional life? "Active from about 1890 to 1916."

Or is it the span of his work's influence and impact? How long he is remembered.

For André Castaigne, I can't tell you the answer to the first question and I've already answered the second. So allow me to go to work on the third.

By 1890, the growth of the illustrated magazine market was prodigious. The circulations of Scribner's, The Century and Harpers were expanding at astonishing rates and the competition among them, and from newcomers, was fierce. High on the list of attractions for readers were the pictures, but there weren't enough good artists to meet the demand.

Art schools sprang up in and around New York to train new illustrators, but their progeny wouldn't mature for several years. Editors and art directors turned their eyes East across the Atlantic. The ateliers, studios, salons and academies of Europe were teeming with young artists anxious to make good. Among them was a young Frenchman named André Castaigne.

As one of the European artists recruited by the magazine publishers to help meet the soaring demand for imagery each month, Andre Castaigne seemed to appear fully developed into the May 1891 issue of The Century with the illustration below for an article on Pioneer Mining in California. That's the earliest that I've encountered his work. It's amusing to consider that this image was probably painted in France for an article on California most likely written by a transplanted New Englander and published in New York. We can only guess at the accuracy of the scene.

André Castaigne - Pioneer Mining in California

Alhough I like and collect Castaigne, I know nothing about him other than he could paint anything with verisimilitude and he had an academic air about his work. The technique used on the cowboys dancing was worthy of the Paris salons, but that doesn't mean he studied there.

He's supposed to have. I spent several hours today scouring my library for any reference material on Castaigne and here's exactly all I could find about him (this from 200 Years of American Illustration by Henry Pitz):

"Born in France, he studied art under Angouléme, a painter. In 1888 he became a member of the Artists of France and from 1885 until 1896 he painted portraits of famous people, an example of which is his piece entitled Alexander le Grande a Memphis. In 1899 he was decorated with the Légion d' honneur. A popular book illustrator, he collaborated with W.T. Smedley and Orson Lowell to illustrate the Scribner edition, Love in Old Clothes."

André Castaigne - Alexander the Great 1 André Castaigne - Alexander the Great 2

Two of the 36+ drawings and paintings for
Alexander the Great in The Century
(November 1898 through October 1899)

That's not much, and it turns out that it's not very accurate either. Angouléme is a city and I can't find reference to any artist or teacher with that name. The "Artists of France" seems also to be a phantom organization that has left no trace in my reference books. It's also very possible that the Alexander the Great painting was one of the dozens he did on the subject for an 1898-99 twelve part series in The Century. And the roles of the Légion de honneur show five Castaignes as recipients, but no Andre and the most recent was born in 1830. He did, however, produce three illustrations that were used in the 1896 Love in Old Clothes - though 'collaborated' might be too strong a word since each artist worked on a different story.

NEW  1/14/2001
- This just in courtesy of my old friend Ron Harris:

J. André Castaigne (don't know what the "J." is for) was born in 1860 and died in 1930 (see corrections at right). He was born in Angouleme, which by coincidence is where the huge comic conventions of the 1960s-1970s were held. Castaigne was a pupil of Gerome. During 1885-1896 he entered several portraits in the annual Salons. Sitters included J. A. Baker and the Vicomte de Dampierre, whoever they were. He also contributed historical canvases, including "A Scene from the Deluge" (1887) and "Armed Peace" (1896). In 1889 Castaigne received an Honorable Mention, but I don't know what for.

In 1888 he became a member of the Society of French Artists. He was represented in the Society's 1900 exhibition by a historical piece, "Alexander the Great at the Temple of Memphis," which seemed to enjoy some popularity; and by a portrait drawing of then Pope Leo XIII. I assume that sketching the Pope was a considerable honor. At any rate Andre was doing all right, for he was decorated with the Legion of Honor in 1899.

It's when Castaigne goes to America that information becomes scarce. I know that he was a member of the Academy of Design in the 1890s. He showed a "Portrait of W.S.G. Baker" (I wonder if this was "J.A." from his Paris days) in their 1891 exhibition. He listed his residence as Baltimore, Maryland; however his business address at the time was care of the Century Company in New York.

The only other reference I could find was in an encyclopedia of painters of the Old West. Castaigne was mentioned briefly in connection with a series he illustrated on Indian tribal life. The commentator said the illustrations were produced "with an anthropologist's eye for accurate detail."

The paucity of information available after WWI makes me wonder. Castaigne would have been 54 in 1914, so it's unlikely he went back to France to fight in the War; yet his output falls off about that time.

I speculate Castaigne was living in the U.S. when he died on the flimsy grounds that his death date was listed in American sources but not in European references. Still, it's possible he spent his latter years in Europe, and that's why we no longer saw him in over here.

Castaigne must have been doing some trans-Atlantic shuttling around the turn of the century, since he was showing in France and illustrating in America at the same time.

NEWER 4/17/2001

This recent update to our quest for information on André Castaigne is courtesy of :

François Castaigne
Département des sciences des aliments et de nutrition
Faculté des sciences de l'agriculture et de l'alimentation,
Université Laval,

André Castaigne's first names were Jean Alexandre Michel Andre, and more specifically Jean Andre. He was born in France on the 21st of January, 1861, and died in 1929. I think that Ron Harris informations on those two dates are wrong. This information comes from Jean Eusebe Castaigne who had known Andre pretty well (he was his uncle).

Jean-Alexandre-Michel-André CASTAIGNE

Artiste peintre; beaux-arts; jeux olympiques 1896
Né le 21 janvier 1861
Décédé en 1929
À l'âge de 68 ans


Jean Eusèbe Joseph CASTAIGNE 1828

Merci, François. Little by little we're learning ...

Thanks to Ron and François for some facts. Now let's check how well I did on my own.

André Castaigne - Fata Morgana 1André Castaigne - Fata Morgana 2So, what can I tell you about him? I believe he's French, not just due to his name, but because he also dedicates one of the books he wrote to "his many friends in America..." That book is Fata Morgana, from 1904 and it is profusely illustrated with plates and line drawings like those at left and right. Another clue is that occasionally his paintings indicate, along with the date and signature, that they were done in New York - a practice many artists used to denote work done away from home.

As to his age, I suggest that he was probably fairly young (under 25) when he did the 'Mining in California' piece above. I base that on the large, rather simplistic signature he used there, and in only a few other early pieces. My experience is that artists, very early on in their careers, settle on a signature and keep it. They might develop and/or embellish it over time, but seldom make radical changes. So let's put a lower limit of 1865 on the birthdate, making him about 26 in 1891 when he starts working in America and nearly forty when he wrote his first book. (see above for some real numbers.)

André Castaigne - The Century 1894He was a prolific feature in The Century, with over 160 illustrations before the end of 1895. That's nearly a painting a week for over three years. If he had time to paint "portraits of famous people", odds are that these turned up in American magazines.

He worked steadily for The Century until at least 1916 and in Harpers from 1901 to 1913. His work is also found at Scribner's as early as 1892 and as late as 1914. He appears in McClures between 1902 and 1910 and I've even seen one illustration in Everybody's from 1910. And the one other reference to him that I found (in The Dictionary of Book Illustrators and Caricaturists 1800-1914) reads in full: "Illustrator of royal events and social subjects for The Graphic, 1902,03 and 1905-10."

Plus he did dozens of books.

I'm especially fond of his color-plate books. They're not common - he perhaps did half a dozen. The image at the top of the page is from a 1911 orientalist adventure tale by Harold Macgrath titled The Carpet From Bagdad. But it was another 1911 potboiler that brought him his taste of everlasting fame.

Phantom of the OperaPublished by Bobbs-Merrill and luridly titled The Phantom of the Opera, this story by Gaston Leroux has survived the decades and brought the one reminder of André Castaigne along with it. There was even a fairly modern (1988) illustrated reprint of the book from Mysterious Press.

One of the very unique aspects of The Phantom is the nature of the plates. There are four of them, one of which is the standard frontispiece opposite the title page. Even this is a trifle different in that it is not bounded by a border, and the image bleeds off the paper at all four edges. The other three plates, however, are printed the width of the book and then folded and turned 90º. So if you were looking at the plate at left, you'd have opened the book and turned it a quarter turn to the right. I've seen this technique used on an occasional basis in a book, but never as the standard method for all the interior plates. Makes for gloriously large images, though. Click on the image for a larger sample.

André Castaigne - The Valiants of VirginaOther books include the works of many of the most popular authors of the day: The Adventures of Francois by S. Weir Mitchell, The Maids of Paradise by Robert W. Chambers, The Marshal by Mary Raymond Shipman Andrews, The Money Master by Gilbert Parker, The Wonder-Book of Horses by James Baldwin, and The Valiants of Virginia by Hallie Erminie Rives. This last being simply another heart-throb society romance pot-boiler, but Castaigne used it to show that he could be just as flashy as Christy or Fisher. See the image at right.

Just as I hope to impart some information to you with these essays, I want you to know that I learn things, too. While scanning the image at right I finally figured out why Christy, and Fisher, and Wenzell, and all of those stalwarts of the day drew such long and languid women. They had to fill up the darned page! With the standard aspect ratio of 3H x 2W, the taller you could make your figures, the less fol de rol you had to draw above and below. Expediency rather than style.

After 1916, or about at the age of 50 if our calculations are right, Castaigne disappears from print - at least from the contents of my library. I found one reference to him on the web with a death date of 1930. But, this listed him as being born in 1890, too, so I'm inclined to take that information with a grain of salt.

So, let's just say that André Castaigne spent about 25 years painting and drawing beautiful pictures for mass reproduction. All the information that's scattered across the net about him is merely mention of his name as an illustrator of a book - most often The Phantom of the Opera. Perhaps, like my page on Eric Pape, this essay will attract someone with more knowledge and the desire to share it.

And we'll extend Castaigne's life a little longer.


To learn more about André Castaigne, see:

any suggestions???
The Vadeboncoeur Collection of Knowledge Jim Vadeboncoeur, Jr. 2000
The Vadeboncoeur Collection of ImageS #3, B&W ImageS #5 Jim Vadeboncoeur, Jr. 2002, 2010, JVJ Publishing

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